A PLACE in the National League final is slipping from Tyrone’s grasp after they suffered a dramatic last gasp defeat at sunny Healy Park on a score of 1-10 to 0-12 against Mayo.
Now the Red Hands must depend on results elsewhere next weekend after Kevin McLoughlin’s winning point deep in injury time earned the Connacht side a vital win in Division One.
But this was a clash played with championship intensity, with both teams enjoying spells of dominance. This was highlighted by the fact that they were level on eight occasions over the course of almost 80 minutes action.
Early points from Darren McCurry and Mark Bradley eased the Red Hands into the lead and they came close to grabbing a goal when Sean Cavanagh almost got on the end of a shot that Mayo goalkeeper, David Clarke cleared.
Mayo, though, also battled hard and points from Kevin McLoughlin and Cillian O’Connor boosted their confidence before two crucial moments.
The first saw Niall Sludden receiving a black card for a foul on Lee Keegan. While Kieran McGeary, Darren McCurry and Sean Cavanagh added points to leave them enjoying a 0-6 to 0-4 lead, the closing minutes of that first half brought different fortunes.
A goal for Mayo from Tom Parsons and then points from Cillian O’Conor and Patrick Durcan saw the visitors lead at the break by 1-6 to 0-8.
The intensity of the action inevitably eased somewhat on the resumption as both teams traded scores and Tyrone’s Colm Cavanagh and Cathal McCarron came to the fore in the defence. Conor Meyler almost got a goal, as points from Niall Morgan and Tiernan McCann entering the final quarter left them 0-11 to 1-7 ahead.
However, it was Mayo who just about edged proceedings during the closing stages. Cillian O’Connor put them one ahead and, while Mark Bradley responded for Tyrpne, the final frantic moments saw Kevin McLoughlin grab the winning score.
“The effort of the players can’t be faulted as they worked very hard, particularly in the second half against the breeze. There’s no doubt that we created enough chances to get something out of the game,” said Tyrone manager, Mickey Harte afterwards.
“But if you don’t put those chances between the posts then things don’t work out and that’s something that’s going to have to be learned from. It’s been a really good game in terms of what the players were asked to give and the only thing that didn’t come out of the tie was a favourable result.
“Losing Niall Sludden so early in the game was a big blow. People will look at that and see that this is the problem with the black card and that they’re difficult to stomach when people get them when they shouldn’t have. He was a huge loss because he is a very creative player who would have revelled in the second half.
“These are the things on which results hinge and it’s a fine line between success and failure.”